Two Thirds of the Way to Orthodoxy

Despite my overall misgivings about the translation principles involved, I have been making a gradual, uneasy peace with the new Missal.  But one thing has been increasingly bothering me that I had not anticipated: the more frequent appearance of the memorial acclamation that says, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”  Wait – what happened to the resurrection?

This acclamation was there before, but I guess the reduction of options leaves us stuck with it more often.  The old standby “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” is off the books, against the request of the U.S. bishops to keep it.  Gone too is my personal favorite, rich with Christological meaning: “Dying you destroyed our death; rising you restored our life; Lord Jesus, come in glory.”  I have a really hard time seeing how these acclamations can be less canonical than one that skips over the resurrection altogether.  Isn’t the memorial acclamation supposed to mention the death, resurrection, and second coming of Christ?  The conspicuous absence of resurrection seems odd enough in ordinary time, but in the Easter season (and at the Easter vigil, no less!), it’s just too much.

I’m trying, really I am.  I have no desire or determination to remain bothered.  I do have difficulty understanding how a memorial acclamation without the resurrection can really be fully orthodox, but if anyone has an explanation that can redeem this one, I’d love to hear it.

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  • Per Signum

    The acclamation is taken from St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:26.

  • A Sinner

    “For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come.”

    If it’s good enough for Paul, it should be good enough for us.

    The Mass is not a Memorial of the Resurrection. Obviously, the Resurrection is bound up in all of it (so is the Ascension, so is the sending of the Holy Spirit; but we don’t mention them either here). But the Sacrifice of the Mass is the unbloody memorial of Christ’s DEATH. The double consecration, the separate confection of body and blood (though we know that, now that Christ be risen, He is entirely present in each by concomitance) is a sign of His shedding His blood on the Cross. It’s not particularly a sign of the Resurrection. Not at that point in the Mass especially.

    We’re doing what Paul said: proclaiming the death of the Lord until He comes.

  • cranky mcgee

    I don’t see why the memorial acclamation is necessary for orthodoxy at all in the first place. It wasn’t there in the Roman Canon from the beginning until 1970.

    • Julia Smucker

      It’s not that the memorial acclamation is necessary for orthodoxy, but that given its structure and its function in the liturgy, it needs the death, resurrection and second coming in order to be complete.

  • Dominic Holtz, O.P.

    I am, I admit, puzzled by your confusion. I don’t expect you think any of us has to redeem the theology expressed in the inspired writings of none other than St Paul!

    The fact is that the memorial acclamation is a very recent invention, so it is quite hard to have any hard line on what it is “supposed” to mention. Moreover, as you note, the acclamation you find troubling is not the result of the new translation. It survived from the previous translation (and is nothing other than St Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians). In itself, it hardly is going to come up in a radically more frequent way. It used to be one of four (so, considering that fact alone, with random selection, a 25% chance of being used) to one of three (so, under the same conditions, a 33-1/3% chance of being used). This hardly means an overwhelming increase in use, as such.

    I wonder whether in your local experience the musician at your parish was ill-prepared for the new translation. Since this was one of the older texts for the acclamation, if the musician had not learned/taught to the choir and cantors any of the (already by the publication of the new translation quite numerous) settings of the newly-translated acclamations, it may be that s/he is using this one disproportionately.

    Similarly, how much of your reaction to what is fundamentally not a feature of the new translation as such colored by your still-lingering sense that there was something “wrong” in the process or principles?

  • Jordan

    The bishops of Ireland have secured a indult for assemblies to say “my Lord and my God!” at the mysterium fidei. This is very old pious interjection at the consecration which well predates the reformed missal. While a whispered “my Lord and my God!” at the elevation is a beautiful devotional practice, the acclamation has little to do with the paschal mystery. If this pious phrase is permissible for the mysterium fidei, then a phrase such as “when we eat this bread …”, which could be interpreted as “weakly paschal” for lack of a better phrase, is also certainly permissible.

    I have long understood (perhaps incorrectly) that the composers of the reformed missal moved the mysterium fidei from a phrase in the consecratory formula of the cup to a separate acclamation in order to re-emphasize the paschal and eschatological dimensions of the eucharist. Despite this recent move, some might still view the eucharist as foremost an offering of the Son to the Father in sin-reparation. I sense that there is still a struggle within small sectors of the Catholic faithful between an adherence and even devotion towards the Tridentine emphasis on propitiation and the broader, more inclusive postconciliar view of eucharistic theology. Perhaps this tension between propitiation and anticipatory paschal joy is reflected in the divergent choices of memorial acclamations now offered in the new Roman Missal.

  • Sérgio Dias Branco

    Hi Julia:

    I have participated in masses in the US in the past. The new translation is more similar to the Latin version. Regarding your specific question: I thought you now said “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again” like we do (I am Portuguese)?

    • Julia Smucker

      That is indeed one of the options now available, which I greatly prefer to the one in question. The other option, which was formerly “Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free; you are the savior of the world,” has now been changed to, “Save us, savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free.” This is the one I’ve been hearing most rarely, perhaps because some find it textually awkward. (I am not of that opinion myself and find this, too, preferable to leaving the resurrection out.) Practically speaking, this means we’re generally leaving ourselves with two to choose from, which is part of the problem of frequency.

  • dominic1955

    I suppose the same way the NO as a whole is orthodox, by papal fiat.

    • Julia Smucker

      This kind of statement only makes it harder to refute blanket ultramontanist caricatures of the Church. Papal fiat has never been the defining factor of orthodoxy.

      • dominic1955

        I totally agree, but it was meant to be sarcastically ironic.

        My point was is that if the Pope can approve the destruction of the whole of his traditional Rite and its replacement with a modern composition, then little details within that modern composition really need no other justification other than Rome says so.

        I’d say the real question has nothing to do with the memorial acclamations (they never existed before 1970 anyway) but with the legitimacy of the NO and other “reformed” liturgies themselves. Did Paul VI really do his proper job as Pope, the guardian of tradition? Did he pass on what he received or did he rule by papal fiat like a super-ultramontanist monarch?

  • Thales


    I’m no liturgical expert, and my initial uneducated impression is the same as yours: why not mention the Resurrection? My guess is that there is some other theological point that I’m missing, which makes the mention of the Resurrection not necessary in this particular acclamation, but I’m truly uneducated on this point.

    But set that debate aside. I don’t see that your concern is a problem is with the fact that there is a new translation. You’re bothered by the one memorial acclamation that doesn’t mention the resurrection — that’s fine. But the old version doesn’t mention the resurrection either (which you appear to acknowledge). It used to say “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.” In my experience, I seem to recall the non-resurrection acclamation being used fairly often in the pre-new-translation days. And now in the post-translation days, I’ve been hearing the other two acclamations with the resurrection quite often. (Today’s Mass, we had the “We proclaim your Death…..”) I guess my point is that I don’t think your concern is an indictment of the fact that we have a new translation.

    • Thales

      Ah, re: the other comments, the acclamation is from St. Paul. Good to learn. Thanks.

    • Father Don

      I am using the first and third acclamations in my parish. I prefer them, and the melody of the “Salvator mundi, salva nos” is more appealing. Furthermore, when we broke in the new translation, having a drastically different acclamation was desirable, especially when the melody was more memorable to our musicians than the “Mortem tuam anuntiamus” (yes we sing them in English!)

  • Chris Sullivan

    Think Mass as Sacrifice.

    God Bless

  • Julia Smucker

    I was indeed aware of the Pauline origins of the acclamation, which I should have acknowledged, so I apologize for the oversight. My problem is not with the statement that we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes,” which in itself is of course entirely orthodox; it is only in a liturgical context, as an anamnesis, that it becomes problematic by virtue of what isn’t there.

    The issue here is that the Mass is many things at once: sacrifice, yes, but also celebration; memorial of Christ’s death, yes, but also of his resurrection and the hope of his return. It is absurdly reductionistic to say that because it is one thing, it can’t be anything else.

    That said, Dominic and Thales are correct to notice that my complaint here is not really about the new translation, so it may have been a bit misleading to take that as a starting point, though admittedly revealing of my sentiments on that matter. The previous version of the same acclamation had bothered me as well, I just didn’t see it as often. The omission of the reference to the resurrection at Easter struck me as particularly egregious.

    • Dominic Holtz, O.P.

      It is absurdly reductionistic to say that because it is one thing, it can’t be anything else.

      I think this statement of yours actually answers your own question. Nothing, and certainly no liturgical formula, and even less a liturgical item produced de novo barely forty years ago, can succeed at being everything. It would, in your language, be reductionistic to assert that every memorial acclamation must have a definite and specific form and content. Should this invention last long enough, we might begin to have more insight, but likely long after we are all dead. The point of the variety of the acclamations has been, minimally, to allow a range (albeit limited, but a range nonetheless) of acclamatory responses to the consecration in light of the paschal and eschatological mysteries. That some of these may accent some dimensions more than others, or use “part-for-whole” language in different ways, is hardly a reason to call any one of them into question.

      In light of the upcoming solemnity, suppose I were to ask where the Ascension is? After all, it is a crucial part of the Paschal mystery as well. For that matter, what about the descent of the Holy Spirit? We see something of this desire for completeness in the prayer Suscipe, sancta Trinitas in the classic form (i.e. the contemporary “extraordinary” form”) of the Offertory of the Mass. In many Medieval versions, including the Dominican version, the priest prays, “Receive, O holy Trinity, this oblation which I offer you in remembrance of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ: and grant that it may arise before you, pleasing in your sight, and might bring about my eternal salvation and that of all the faithful.” However, in the later Middle Ages, there was a tendency to “fill out” the “motives” for the oblation, as seen in the Roman version that survived until the new Order of Mass (i.e. “ordinary form”) came into effect after the Council. In the Roman Missal, the priest’s prayer begins, “Receive, O holy Trinity, this oblation which we offer to you in remembrance of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honor of blessed Mary ever Virgin, of blessed John the Baptist, of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, of these [i.e. the saints whose relics are in the altar] and of all the saints; that it may avail to their honor and our salvation: and may they deign to intercede for us in heaven whose memory we celebrate on earth.”

      Is the older form (e.g. Dominican) ignoring central elements of the theology of the Mass, of the memorial that it serves, of the point of thanksgiving for the saints as well? It would seem odd to insist that the prayer needs to be as “thorough” as the later Roman prayer in order to sum up what needs to be said. There is nothing wrong with the longer list of motives of memorial in the Roman prayer, but would one not seem a bit peevish to complain about speaking only of the memorial of the Passion, especially in light of St Paul?

  • Carl Diederichs

    Aside from your concern about the acclamation, I find the prayers very stilted and some are difficult to understand. I believe we will receive an indult at some later time to use the Sacramentary.

  • dominic1955

    Also, and maybe I’ve stretching a bit, it seems there is an issue with the new theology of the “Pascal Mystery”, a god we knew not, newly come up, which our Fathers feared not.

    Obviously there is nothing wrong with the basic idea of the Pascal Mystery. However, traditionally, Mass was understood as first and foremost the unbloody re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on Cavalry. The other matters bound up with the whole of the Pascal Mystery are of course there, but they take a back seat to the “primer inter pares” of the Lord’s Passion.

    When viewed through a new lense that puts more emphasis on the Resurrection, the immemorial structure becomes subject to an innovation of theology. Lex orandi, lex credendi-it should have been the Mass which informs theology and not the other way around. Unfortunately Pius XII (may his name be blessed) turned it around and unwittingly opened the way for all sorts of innovations he never would have countenanced.

    Understood rightly, the law of belief does determine the law of prayer but the law of belief should not be confused and counfounded with the theological and liturgical fancies of any given period.

  • Julia Smucker

    Our two Dominics are speaking from the same flawed assumption: that of a single, pure and unchanging theology of Eucharistic liturgy, pristinely preserved through the Church’s whole history until radically disrupted by the unprecedented innovations (gasp!) of post-Vatican II reform. Sounds ironically like what Pope Benedict would call a hermeneutic of discontinuity.

    The idea that there was ever only one way of understanding the Mass is neither theologically sound nor historically true. (One could say the same of the claim that the “Paschal Mystery” is untraditional, for that matter.) The celebration of the Eucharist has been understood in many ways throughout history, and rightly so. It is infinitely too big to be contained by any single explanation!

    • Dominic Holtz, O.P.

      You presume without facts in evidence Julia, as I have presumed no such thing. Indeed, your reaction is altogether out of proportion to anything I have actually written. Please reread what I actually said.

      Indeed, I suspect that when you do see what I have actually said, you may well find that it is you, and not I, clinging to the notion of a pristine and pure theology of the Mass. After all, you are the one who has a clear and singular vision of what a memorial acclamation “must” be, such that you are troubled by the Pauline phrase as less than appropriate for this liturgical context. I, on the other hand, have noted that a similar desire in the past to account for the “whole” of what would come to be called in later centuries the “Paschal mystery” (e.g. in the Suscipe, sancta Trinitas of the Roman Missal) does not in any way nullify older, sparser expressions which speak only explicitly of the Passion (e.g. the Suscipe, sancta Trinitas of the Dominican Missal).

      • Julia Smucker

        It appears that we have been misunderstanding each other, so let’s drop the accusations and try again.

        I think I see your point that one thing can’t do everything. But isn’t that all the more reason to allow each part of the liturgy to speak its truth as fully as it can or is meant to? Why not hold onto the both/and, or in this case, the whole threefold truth that we remember every time we celebrate the Eucharist?

        And I agree that the Paschal Mystery does not nullify anything that is part of it; rather, it brings together complementary truths that had long been part of the tradition without having been systematized.

      • Dominic Holtz, O.P.

        Fair enough. Pax.

        My first point, however, is that we are both over- and underdetermining the memorial acclamation if we insist that it include every element of the Paschal Mystery while also being fine with just three. As I asked above, where is the Ascension? If we say the Ascension is somehow “included”, then we have allowed for “part-for-whole”, in which case the classic, indeed Pauline, language of the Eucharist as memorial of the death of the Lord until he comes is surely far more than merely adequate. It would surely speak its truth as fully as the others. We cannot insist that death, resurrection, and return just *are* the three key moments, and my appeal to the Suscipe, sancta Trinitas was meant to show this. (Indeed, some versions of this prayer include the Incarnation as well!)

        My second point is that the memorial acclamation as a liturgical item in the Roman rite is simply of too recent vintage for any justified strong claims about its nature or its truth in the Mass of the Roman rite. This is not a appeal to sleek and metallic idealized liturgies soaring somewhere amid the Platonic solids. Rather, it is granting that the only measure of the truth of the memorial acclamation has to come from its actual history and use. In this case, the acclamation under discussion has been there from the beginning, so we ought rather to judge subsequent theologizing in light of the fact that this acclamation also represents the liturgical mind of the Church here, rather than divining that mind on other grounds and ruling out what has been one of the very acclamations that establishing this whole liturgical item from the beginning.

    • A Sinner

      “Sounds ironically like what Pope Benedict would call a hermeneutic of discontinuity.”

      I don’t necessarily agree with the “dominic” hermeneutic, but there is nothing ironic about it.

      The “hermeneutic of continuity” is basically, as far as I can tell, “spinning” things so that an obvious change in ethos in the Church becomes “not a change at all” through hermeneutic slight of hand.

      Both liberals and traditionalists see that the pope is naked, however, and that a “revolution” occurred that was not at all organic or gradualist.

      • Julia Smucker

        I always hear “continuity” as connoting movement. Is that just me?

        I believe that a truer understanding of continuity does not deny change but is interdependent with innovation: developments that build on what has come before; a traditio that may change shape with every passing-down, yet is continuously recognizable at its core.

        • A Sinner

          Again, this isn’t necessarily my position, but I’ll point out:

          Traditionalists should not be identified with a hermeneutic of “continuity.” Continuity is not their shibboleth, that’s the touchstone of “conservatives.” For (certain) traditionalists, something like “changelessness” is probably more their hermeneutic (though historically insupportable). As such, proving “continuity” is hardly an argument for them, for exactly the reasons you imply: “continuity” implies change, and if such a hermeneutic can “stitch together” or “smooth over” minor changes, then smoothing over major (even revolutionary) changes becomes merely a question of degree, not nature.

          “Continuously recognizable at its core” is what that debate is about, I’d think. What is “the core,” and is it still recognizable? Is “the core” something more than just the bare minimum of the deposit of faith in such a way that all little-t traditions could be instantly discarded?

        • Julia Smucker

          Thanks for pointing out the distinction between the hermeneutic of continuity and the hermeneutic of changelessness. This helps to clarify the former as more of a middle-ground position.

        • Dominic Holtz, O.P.

          The distinction is a good one, although ascribing a hermeneutic of changelessness to any party, traditionalists included, is neither accurate nor fair.

  • dominic1955

    The Council of Trent is pretty clear of what the primary point and essense of what the Mass is. That is the definitive teaching. Have their been other emphases through the years? Sure. Do the rest of them really hold a candle to the light of Trent? Not really. There is not “only” one understanding, but there is one basic understanding that must underlie all others in order to be orthodox. No one could dare to deny that the Mass is truly a propitiatory sacrifice and still consider themselves Catholic, for instance.

    I don’t want to go down this rabbit hole, but along the same lines w/ ultramontanism-the Pope can speak about hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity all he wants but people are calling it as they see it (ala Gherardini et al). It remains to be seen how it will play out, but I think the Pope had already given the answer when he was still a Cardinal about how even valid Councils have not always ended up being useful and truly significant Councils.

    Fr./Br. Holtz also correctly points out that such things as acclaimations cannot, by nature, be a jack of all trades. To expect any more would be akin to inserting after the pro multis in the Consecration a little theological discourse explaining the meaning and how this does imply a limited atonement or that Christ only died for the Elect and then back to the rest of the Consecration.

    • Julia Smucker

      What makes Trent the be-all and end-all over against all other Church councils?

      What Trent was trying to do was respond to the Reformation, and it needs to be understood in that context, not simply as the one definitive norm for all subsequent theology.

      • dominic1955

        That might be what you read, but its not what I said. What other Council defined as much on the Mass and the Eucharist as Trent? What it laid down is still the norm, and how could it be any other way? It is not like defined dogmas can evolve into something they were not before (cf. Vatican I).

        Trent was not merely responding to the Reformation. That was a big part of its immediate concern, but when a Council (or Pope) defines something, it cannot be consigned to some degree of irrelevancy by insinuating all it said was time conditioned.

        • Julia Smucker

          I am not trying to consign Trent to any degree of irrelevancy, I am simply critiquing an ahistorical reading of it. And yes, doctrine does evolve. Come to think of it, evolution is a pretty good metaphor for development in continuity.

        • dominic1955

          An ahistorical reading of it would hold up its disciplinary or reformative rulings as being normative for all time without reference to the real life situations that shaped them. Its dogmatic teachings can certainly be taken as a norm for today, because what they defined cannot be altered from the sense they have been handed down in on pretext of a more profound understanding. (cf. Vatican I, chapt. 4)

          Certainly, you do not mean by “evolution” the notions condemned by Pascendi and Lamentabili, correct?

        • Julia Smucker

          I’m not sure what you’re referring to, but I was thinking along the lines of John Henry Newman’s thought on development of doctrine. If more profound understandings emerge from what has been handed down, isn’t that a sign of tradition doing what it is meant to do?

        • dominic1955

          I just asked clarification because the terms “evolution” and “dogma” were the way St. Pius X described the way in which the Modernists thought of how dogmas were to be understood. The way in which Bl. Newman described it, as a development, is the right way that any “change” in doctrine/dogma must be understood.

          More profound understandings, yes, but not changes in doctrine under the pretext of more profound understanding. A change or evolution in doctrine that makes it something it never was before and taken contrary or at odds with how it was intended are what the anti-Modernist Syllabi, Chapt. 4 of Dei Filius of Vatican I as well as Pascendi Dominici Gregis and the Oath condemn.

        • Julia Smucker

          I agree that total discontinuity is an incorrect way to understand the development of doctrine. That was actually my point in referring to evolution, which cannot happen without a high degree of continuity, whether speaking biologically or metaphorically.

  • Pinky

    Julia, I think the more frequent use may be peculiar to your parish. I’m pretty sure we’ve been using “save us, Savior of the world, for by Your cross and resurrection You have set us free” most of the time in the parishes I usually attend.

  • Devin

    One way to think about it is to whom is the Acclamation being addressed, the Risen Lord. Though I do agree with the overall point, the Unbloody Sacrifice of Calvary inherently includes the Resurrection; they are part of the same Sacrifice. The Eastern Churches do tend to emphasis the Resurrection more than the West (which were developed roughly the same time period as the Roman Canon) so this way of thinking is just as orthodox (no pun intended).

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    I think that Julia is right here as a matter of religious history. And that Dominic is being a bit coy and clever when he says that ” I don’t expect you think any of us has to redeem the theology expressed in the inspired writings of none other than St Paul!” Well, Dominic certainly knows that more the more almost half the RC Church’s history most people thought that St. Paul did need a sort of redemption by way of explication by his “contemporary” St. Denis (aka now the Pseudo-Dionysius). This is definitely what the Angelic Doctor thought. An interesting discussion by theologian David Coffey on “The Theandric Nature of Christ” lays this bare, and shows why the former English translation was more in line with the actual reasoning of the historical theologians the RC Church claims to find most convincing and important. The current translation seems to be an effort to make the history look tidier than it was, in that hoary “back to the sources” way always beloved of reactionaries. Here is a telling little chunk of the article:

    “Half a millennium later in the West, Thomas Aquinas was saying much the same thing. Because of the distinction of natures, he was able to invoke the following general principle in the case of Christ: “Wherever mover and moved have different forms or operative powers, there is necessarily one proper operation of the mover and another of the moved, though the moved participates in the operation of the mover, and the mover uses the operation of the moved, each thus acting in communion with the other.” He says that the humanity of Christ, the “moved” in this case, became the “instrument” of the divinity through his obedience freely rendered to the sovereign will of God. He describes the process in the following way:
    An inanimate instrument such as an ax or a saw is moved by an artisan only through a bodily movement, but an instrument endowed with a sensitive soul is moved through its sensitive appetite, as a horse is controlled by its rider. However, an instrument endowed with a rational soul is moved through its will, and in this way a servant is moved to do something by his master…. Therefore the human nature in Christ was the instrument of the divinity in that it was moved through the will proper to it.
    Thus he was able to interpret Pseudo-Dionysius in the following way: “Dionysius places in Christ a theandric or divine-human operation … because his [Christ’s] divine operation uses his human operation [that is, via his obedience], and his human operation participates in the efficacy of
    the divine operation.” Hence what appears as a single, theandric operation of Christ is in reality two distinct operations working together in perfect communion.
    Aquinas argued from two quotations found in Chap. 2 of De divinis nominibus that this was the position of Pseudo-Dionysius himself. The whole passage from Pseudo-Dionysius, with the quoted parts in italics, reads as follows:
    Again, it is by a differentiated act of God’s benevolence that the super-essential Word should wholly and completely take human substance of human flesh and do and suffer all those things which, in a special and particular manner, belong to the action of his divine humanity. In these acts the Father and the Spirit have no share, except of course that they all share in the loving generosity of the divine counsels and in all that transcendent divine working of unutterable mysteries which were performed in human nature by him who as God and as the Word is immutable. So do we strive to differentiate the divine attributes, according as these attributes are undifferenced [sic] or differentiated.
    Only then, in particular circumstances, do the Father and the Word share in the human action of Christ; otherwise they do not. One such set of circumstances is “all that transcendent divine working of unutterable mysteries which were performed in human nature by him who as God and as the Word of God is immutable.” Pseudo-Dionysius does not specify this statement any further, but it seems that he has in mind the redemption performed by the Word in a unique way in his humanity, by his life, death, and Resurrection, but also by the Father and the Holy Spirit in their special divine ways. From the fact that Pseudo-Dionysius says that “they all share” in this action and that this statement is put in parallel with “they all share in the loving generosity of the divine counsels,” Aquinas not unreasonably interprets Pseudo-Dionysius to mean that, in addition to the redemptive operation of the Word in the sacred humanity, the same Word operating in his divinity is here associated also with the Father and the Spirit in their divine redemptive operation, and this because of the necessary unity of the divine operation (notwithstanding the fact that within this unity each person operates in his own distinct way). This enables Aquinas to conclude that for Pseudo-Dionysius also, Christ has two distinct operations, one divine and one human.
    But it is important to note that nowhere in this passage does Pseudo-Dionysius refer to Jesus Christ as such. Throughout, his subject is the divine Word, now spoken of in the human nature, now in the divine. In other words, it is not Christ who is here said to have two operations, but the divine Word as such. When, therefore, Pseudo-Dionysius speaks of the human operation of the Word, it is likely that he means what he said in the letter to Gaius when he spoke of the single, theandric operation of Christ. It is not as though he there denied the divine operation of the Word; indeed, we may take it that he implicitly affirmed it. But he seemed to appreciate what his commentators in East and West did not, that to speak of Jesus Christ is to refer to the existence and operation of the divine Word in the human nature rather than the divine.
    What we need to understand when we interpret Constantinople Ill’s doctrine of the two operations of Christ is that it already presumes and applies the communicatio idiomatum (interchange, or communication, of attributes) of the Council of Ephesus. In other words, what renders it permissible to say that Christ has two operations (or natures) is the fact that the divine Word has two operations and that this Word is the person in Christ.16 But this kind of application of the communicatio requires to be treated with caution, for it always has two possible senses, only one of which is fully and properly correct. Thus, for example, if we say that Christ is omniscient, this is correct in the sense that the person in Christ, the divine Logos, is omniscient, but that the Jesus Christ whom we encounter in the Gospels is omniscient is contradicted by the Gospels themselves. Likewise, when we say that Christ has two natures or operations, this is correct in the sense that the divine Logos has two natures or operations, but patently not so if we understand the word Christ to mean, as we normally do and as the word itself immediately suggests, the divine Logos in the human nature, for here the limitation placed on the subject of the sentence is extended to the predicate as well. What is truly remarkable is that neither Constantinople III nor our chosen commentators of East or West showed the slightest awareness that they were already invoking the communicatio when they said that Christ had two natures or operations”

    It seems that St. Paul was in need of this Pseudo-Dionysian redemption. And that is what the actual liturgical praxis for a long time was based on. The “return” now is a nostalgia, and a wholly predictable one.

  • Brandon Watson

    I think part of the issue here is that people are somewhat baffled by the title of the post and your comment on orthodoxy at the end of the post; the most natural answer to the question is, “Is this acclamation orthodox?” is “Of course; it’s straight from St. Paul, is explicitly about the words of the institution, and doesn’t say anything incorrect about the Eucharist.” So the question is how being the acclamation in this context would make it anything other than completely orthodox. And if the worry is that it leaves things out, then Dominc Holtz is exactly right: Eucharist is a sacrament, i.e., a mystery; by definition that means we could keep adding things forever and still leave things out. And this is true even for the basics: short of having everyone recite large sections of the Gospels, we’re not going to hit even all the basics. That’s the difficulty with mysteries: since they are inexhaustible, the most detailed summary you can imagine is going to leave important things out (Virgin Birth, Baptism, Transfiguration, Ascension, Session, Mystical Body, etc.). What we do have here, however, is an explicit Scriptural gloss on the words of institution themselves, which are the central part of the rite in question. And given that, it’s a little difficult to see what you’re trying to express that goes beyond an expression of personal taste.

    • Julia Smucker

      Maybe “orthodoxy” was a misleading word to use. I’m not really saying it’s unorthodox so much as inadequate, although a more systematically articulated Christology from which the resurrection was conspicuously absent might verge on heresy.

      It is of course true that we can’t expect to get systematic treatises from the liturgy, and I resoundingly agree on the inexhaustibility of mystery. That is exactly my point to those who seem to be insisting that the Mass is X and therefore not Y. And I think this is why it’s best for the liturgy to be as fully expressive as it can be. Knowing that we can’t exhaust the mystery, why would we limit ourselves to the canonical minimum?

      • A Sinner

        “Knowing that we can’t exhaust the mystery, why would we limit ourselves to the canonical minimum?”

        Because it’s lifted right from Scripture! (Which is something that other people were complaining Catholics didn’t cite enough…)

        It’s like…you just can’t please everyone!

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO


    having waded through the comments and seeing your corrections, I find your point very well taken. The older acclamation that you prefer is theologically broader and more embracing of the dimensions of eucharistic theology that came to the fore after Vatican II. The response you criticize is not unorthodox, any more than the Roman Canon is unorthodox for failing to invoke the Holy Spirit at certain points.

    As far as practice: my choir director rolled out new music (for which she won an award) for “we proclaim…we profess” a week before we made the changeover, and have used that one exclusively ever since.

    • Thales

      The older acclamation that you prefer is theologically broader and more embracing of the dimensions of eucharistic theology that came to the fore after Vatican II.


      Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but it’s not a question of the older acclamation translation versus the newer acclamation translation. See the two versions below. I don’t think Julia would have preferred the older acclamation either.

      New: “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”

      Old: “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.”

    • Julia Smucker

      Thales is correct: I have the same problem with the older and newer versions of this acclamation. It’s the ones that include the death, resurrection and second coming that I prefer as being theologically broader. Sorry for not communicating that clearly enough.

      By the way, David, I agree about the Roman Canon as well: its lack of an epiclesis doesn’t make it unorthodox (though perhaps un-Orthodox, as in the Eastern Churches), but it does leave something missing. Thankfully that gap is filled in our current Eucharistic Prayers.

    • Dominic Holtz, O.P.

      It is ultimately Byzantinism to insist that the Canon needs an epiclesis. Since we can only judge what a eucharistic prayer “ought” to be in light of the Church’s actual tradition of prayer, then we need to allow that the Roman Canon, itself more ancient and retaining for that reason less polemically-originated modes of expression than, e.g. the Anaphoras of Basil and Chrysostom, is minimally one of the principal models of how a eucharistic prayer should be written/formed. Besides, much of the language of the fruitfulness of communion with an invocation of the Spirit can be found in various post-communion prayers.

      Moreover, the Canon is not “missing” a eucharistic prayer any more than Latin is “missing” definite and indefinite articles or than English is missing a dual to distinguish from singular and plural. It represents one of the most ancient and continuous patterns and indeed the very words of prayer used by one of the most ancient Christian communities. The Church would surely suffer if this Roman tradition thought it necessary to include an explicit epiclesis (in its explicit form an element at least contemporary with, and possibly a product of debates over the Trinity and the divinity of the Spirit) rather than maintain that symphony of eucharistic prayer that comes from the various euchological “languages” (Roman, Antiochian, Syrian, etc.) of the ancient and Patristic Church.

      • Julia Smucker

        Be careful with the “more ancient” claims. According to Jasper & Cuming’s reputable compilation of early Eucharistic liturgies, “The Roman Canon cannot be dated with any precision. Quotations and parallels begin to appear towards the end of the fourth century in such writers as Ambrose and Ambrosiaster, and in the letter of Pope Innocent I to Bishop Decentius (416). The oldest manuscripts are no older than the eighth century.” They also date the Egyptian Anaphora of St. Basil, an earlier version of the Byzantine, in the fourth century. But similarly to what you point out below, this isn’t really an antiquity contest anyway.

        We could, though, talk about being two thirds of the way to orthodoxy in a Trinitarian sense, if either the Father, Son or Spirit were wholly absent from any given liturgy. And if one is only minimally present, then it may be technically orthodox but would still be theologically lopsided.

      • A Sinner

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with cross-pollinization. An epiclesis isn’t “necessary,” but adding mention of the Holy Spirit in the Canon isn’t any “worse” than adding St. Joseph. If we add “We therefore beseech thee, O Lord, to be appeased, ‘to send thy Spirit’ and to receive this offering” or “Which offering do thou, O God, vouchsafe in all things ‘to send thy Holy Spirit’ to bless , consecrate , approve , make reasonable and acceptable…” I wouldn’t mind.

        However, I’d question whether the “silence” on the Holy Spirit in the most ancient skeleton core of the Roman liturgy is really theologically lopsided. The Holy Spirit has always been the most “silent” member of the Trinity. In some sense it is because the Holy Spirit is the one speaking through the Church, and thus there is something a bit odd about the Spirit “talking about Himself” as it were.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Julia, you and Thales are correct. I misspoke: what I meant was the older acclamation you were specifically referring to, the one with the direct reference to the resurrection.

    • Dominic Holtz, O.P.

      Well, the thing is, the other two acclamations in the new Missal do explicitly mention the Resurrection, as Julia herself notes above. It think it is helpful to excise from here any discussion about old and new, since that is really not the issue. Better clarified, I think the question might be something like the following: If one is going to use the “Mysterium fidei” as a call to the congregation to acclaim Jesus Christ and the mystery by which we are saved in light of the consecration and in response to his sacramental presence among us, is it to be preferred that such an acclamation explicitly make mention of the Resurrection as part of that mystery?

      • Julia Smucker

        Dominic, you’re right, it’s really not about old and new. Actually, I’m impressed: your question (to which I would answer “yes”) gets at my point more clearly and concisely than I have done.